Monday, October 15, 2012

Bullying: The In-between

There's been a lot of discussion about bullying the last few days. Another teen chose to end her life this week, rather than endure seemingly unending bullying. It's a tragedy that has everyone talking about what to do about it. Everyone agrees that "someone" should "do something" but that's about as far as the consensus goes. There is a lot of finger pointing happening, particularly at the parents and the schools. There's even a call for new federal legislation to address the problem in Canada.

I don't have an answer to the questions of who's to blame and what should be done. I sure wish I did. I was bullied as a child and my son is suffers bullying today. If only there was a magic wand.

I was pondering these questions as I waited for Jonas to come out school today. Yesterday was another on our list of run-ins with the neighbourhood bully. I've already tried to talk to his parents, to no avail, and the boys don't go to the same school so that's not a issue in this case, so we're left to deal with this on our own for now. But as I sat in the school parking lot today, I realized that it isn't just a two family issue.

The reality is that this is a neighbourhood issue. The bullying isn't happening at school or in our homes, it's happening in-between, and very likely has more than one victim. The bullying happens at the park, on the internet, on the street, on the pathways, in the forest between the school and the parking lot. It happens in all those places that haven't officially signed the anti-bully petition.

Playing in the woods behind the school:
It can be a world of fun and exploration, and also a space bullying can flourish.
It's in those places, where we let our children explore their identities and independence, that bullying can flourish. In the cracks where parents and teachers aren't. It's in those places where our neighbourhood is. Oh, there might not be a grown-up around all the time, but there are usually adult eyes and ears that see and hear the reports of what goes on there. If we all took a more vested interest in our children, including the neighbourhood children, we could probably put the brakes on this problem.

It's going to take a community to solve this problem. The "someone" is us. The "do something" is making ours a community that pays attention and cares about what's going on with our children - a community where people don't turn a blind eye because "it's not my problem" or "they aren't my kids", or worse, responding with indifference or a defensive "not my kid". We need to do the right thing and let them see us doing it. We need to listen to our kids and teach them to do the right thing. We need to teach them, simply, to be nice. Teaching our kids right from wrong, to stick up for each other and what's right, and that we'll stick up for them, is something that every one of us who interacts with children can do. It's up to all of us.

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